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D.C. United versus Orlando City SC preview: Behind Enemy Lines w/ The Mane Land

We talk to the punnily-named OCSC blog to get the lowdown

To preview D.C. United’s first midweek game, we reached out to Michael Citro of The Mane Land to get the info on all things purple. To see my answers to his questions, head on over to The Mane Land. (Editor’s note: this was written before the news of Kaka’s injury came out)

B&RU: If you were Jason Kreis, and you could completely ignore your ownership group and base decisions completely off of soccer, would you start Kaka right now?

Can’t tell if trolling or serious. I don’t know what people in other parts of the country think of Kaká, but you absolutely start him whenever you can. There’s just not a creative attacking midfielder on this team – and not that many in the league overall – capable of doing what he can do. The one goal Orlando scored at San Jose wouldn’t have happened without the Brazilian. Kaká, when healthy, is capable of making so many special little plays over the course of a game that add up.

That said, he’s just as prone to having a bad game as anyone else, which he did against New York City FC a week and a half ago. Even Messi, Ronaldo, and Zlatan have bad games sometimes. But he also reads the game so well that he’s able to get into positions to score goals and set others up to score goals, even on nights when he doesn’t have his best stuff. He’s also not really been a defensive liability this season. He works hard, has the respect of his teammates, and contributes on the offensive end. You have to play him.

B&RU: How is our old friend Antonio Nocerino doing? Has anyone else tried to tamper with him?

Noce is molto bene. Under Jason Kreis, he’s become an effective base of the diamond midfield, shielding the back line, anticipating danger before it begins and channeling everything to the left or right. He’s also become a vocal team leader despite being the only native Italian speaker on the squad with a limited (but growing) handle on the English language. I’d say he’s only behind Kaká, Will Johnson, and Jonathan Spector in the leadership he brings to the pitch.

The Italian is not an offensive threat, but he’s done a good job of playing a safe central midfield role for the club. His high salary and the start he had to his MLS transition make him an easy target when things don’t go well, but in my view he’s finally adapted to MLS and he’s bought 100% into what Jason Kreis wants him to do.

As for people tampering with him, well nobody except some of the team’s pranksters.

B&RU: What is success for Jason Kreis this year? What is failure?

Success is probably a playoff appearance. I’m not sure a postseason win is crucial this season but I’d think club ownership would be disappointed if Orlando City missed the playoffs after the club’s strong start to the year. That would probably be viewed as failure. That said, I don’t think missing the playoffs would get Kreis fired. He’s brought in some very good pieces like Johnson, Spector, and Scott Sutter and this team is the deepest it’s been since joining MLS. But there are still some holes to fill in the scoring department and a couple of the older midfielders like Matias Perez Garcia and Giles Barnes – despite promising starts after their trades – have not provided the expected results as of yet. Both make a lot of money and would likely be on their way out if that doesn’t change.

Kreis needs another year regardless of whether the Lions make the postseason or not and I think ownership would give him that.

B&RU: Lineups/predictions?

I think we’ll see Orlando go back to its most common first-choice lineup for D.C. United (4-4-2 diamond):

Joe Bendik; Donny Toia, Jonathan Spector, Jose Aja, Scott Sutter; Cristian Higuita, Antonio Nocerino, Will Johnson, Kaká; Carlos Rivas, Cyle Larin.

I predict a 1-1 draw because it’s still May and apparently we’re not allowed to win any matches this month.